George mentions the move to hermetic boxes and efforts to limit distractions and mentions folks with ADHD. As someone diagnosed with that condition (as is my younger son) this is an important issue that architects have failed to help address. We learned a lot in the course of getting our son's diagnosis - which is what prompted me to go and get an evaluation also. One critical element is indeed the visual environment, except that anyone who's designed schools knows that you can provide as pristine a classroom environment as you like, but the first thing pretty much any teacher does is over every available square foot of wall space that they can reach with posters, kids projects, etc. Even if you made all of the walls glass, preventing tacking things up, they'd just use tape or sticky tack. Even if you try to corral such visual detritus by copious use of tack space - they STILL cover the open walls with everything from ABC cards to sheet music, depending up on the grades.
That said, one critical element in that consideration is window placement - how high on the wall the glass goes. There is almost an inverse relationship between the age of the children and the optimal window height. Lower grades should have skylights or clerestories - so kids can't see cars or people going by if they look out the window. As you move up in grades this is less of an issue, and even though HS seniors still have attention issues they're better able to deal with a window view and still are able to be successful in the class.
Beyond this, however, is the increasing recognition on the part of educators on the need for the ability to incorporate dynamic learning within a typical classroom environment. This is where we get back to the original subject of this thread.
The notion of extending the school day only exacerbates the issue of attention-challenged kids - and neurotypical kids as well. If a district is proposing to extend the school day, it only increases the urgency of developing instructional spaces that can allow a wider and more dynamic range of classroom activities - or the need for more types of spaces and a change in curriculum and scheduling to accomodate it.
The bottom line is, whether you extend the school day or not, one of the most effective and provable ways to improve student performance through architectural changes is to modify classrooms or build new ones to allow for in-class dynamic learning. You may need more space in a typical room, you may need more resilient floor surfaces in sections of the rooms, etc., depending upon how the district wants to approach this issue.
And again, if a longer school day is contemplated, the need for such greater variety is that much more urgent.
As for the why question - why a longer school day - one issue is the need, particularly in the lower grades, for children to remain in school longer to make it easier for parents. The shorter day works fine when one parent can stay home, but speaking from experience it can create serious strain on families where both parents work, both anxiety and budgetary, if they have to find a way to cover their child from 3-5 PM each afternoon. Single parents feel this even more acutely; with two wage earners there is some ability to shift schedules an hour or so but with only one that is not an option.
As children move up through the grades this gets easier...sort of. Then the concern, somewhat gender-specifically, is with children being released at 3 and left to their own device. After school activities can be a solution - but again that can require more or different types of spaces for some of the specialized activities a district may wish to support.
Either way, it just doesn't work if the approach to a longer school day is just to keep the kids longer in the same classrooms. Educators and district leadership need to understand that for such a change to be effective, their school facilities must be modified or expanded with just as much deliberation as they expend in carefully making the curriculum changes for the longer day. Otherwise they will not only not get improved student performance, overall performance may in fact decrease.
Eric Davis AIA
Oak Park IL
Show Original Message